I was recently reading an article about how as Christians we can have productive political conversations. In it the author said that as Christians, we are in the right position to have good conversations with other Christians because we have the same foundation of beliefs. We can talk in a positive manner about political beliefs we may not share, because first and foremost we have belief in the same Savior, Jesus. I think this same principle applies to talking about Jesus to people who do not yet know the Gospel. We need to find the common foundation and establish authenticity before we discuss our beliefs about Jesus. Where can we find this common ground? And how do we establish authentic connection?
Share Your Life
Our relationships with others who do not share our same core belief that Jesus is the savior of the world are important. These are likely people whom we love, respect, and care about. They do not want to feel like you are just trying to convert them or that the only way to earn your trust is to be a Christian. So, know that you can ask for their advice on non-spiritual matters and take it if it’s wise. If you're having trouble with your car, need financial advice, or looking for travel suggestions, you can build a trusting relationship by asking them. You do not have to get your advice only from Christians but should always test any advice against Scripture and pray about whatever situation you need advice on.
I know that when I wasn’t a Christian, that I would get annoyed by those Christians who never wanted my advice and seemed to only care about me if it was in relation to the potential of me converting. I thought that they thought they were better than me or that I was “bad” to them. I now see our relationships through a different lens, but I still think we need to focus on continuing support even when they do not change to our religion.
Let’s Go to the Movies
I am a huge movie fan. One of the ways I build relationships is through watching movies I love and going to the movie theater to see new movies together. Movies are a gateway to conversation. They can bring up topics and bond people as we share the experience of seeing and enjoying the same plotlines together (and often for the first time). I am not the only one who feels this way. Recently, Concordia Seminary in St. Louis put on a Faith and Film Festival where participants watched selected films and talked about their intersection with our faith in Christ. The list of films that can be found from this festival can be helpful when considering what movies to watch. Some of these films are on my absolute favorite lists. I often find myself recommending one or more of these films to group-watch with people. So check them out and make sure to have a conversation after viewing.
Shared experiences are bonding. Especially if those experiences allow you to have conversations. These conversations allow us to create memories, jokes, and understandings from one another. I find that eating meals together is the quickest way to create conversations and build connection. Jesus, during his ministry, shared meals with people frequently. Mealtimes were moments where Christ could teach about Himself and others could ask Him questions. Meals with Jesus served many purposes, and basic fellowship was one of them. Invite people to dinner, get to know them better around a meal. Here is where you can share your life with them.
Find Other Activities
My husband, among many other people, loves rec league sports teams. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, he is always signing up to play something whether that be soccer, softball, or Frisbee. He loves being able to be active, on a team, and finds it fun! (I’m not someone who dislikes playing sports, but I am not a fan of every sport. I'll play when it's a sport I enjoy). And through this, he has grown friendships. Getting to know others while working cooperatively has been scientifically studied. In these studies, they find that people who may not always agree are able to communicate better after playing sports with one another. Being competitive with one another and playing cooperatively allows you to know you are working toward the same goal. This puts you in a position to share with one another and find more common ground.
1 Peter 3:15 states: "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect . . ." When you find common ground and start discussing differences, make sure you are prepared to answer questions about Christianity, your faith, and be ready to listen to their feelings and concerns. With the help of the Holy Spirit, building these connections can have eternal impact.